We hear the feedback, we read the comments, and we get it: You don’t like Criss Angel. From mild annoyance with his reliance on TV tricks to outright disgust about how he treats other magicians (such as Dynamo, Jan Roven and Joe Monti), Angel doesn’t count many magicians among his Loyals (the name for his die-hard fans).
His new show, “Believe,” is an extension of the Las Vegas show he’s built over the last three years. Following a similar format as “Mindfreak,” the show highlights 11 illusions, from a straitjacket escape to that falling sword illusion — you know, the one that looks like it was stolen from Jan Rouven and failed pretty badly during the live execution.
But the reactions we hear from you about Criss: Wow. His show hasn’t even aired yet, and already we’re hearing about it. Magicians are complaining about how a performer that relies on camera editing, stooges and special effects is dominating the magic landscape.
Most magicians see failure. We see opportunity.
Us? We are THRILLED to see him back on cable TV. From the look of his teasers, he’ll be basing each show around a signature illusion. And the first segment appears to be a collection of close-up magic. If it’s more Mindfreak, then what may be bad for Criss Angel is good for the rest of us. Here’s four reasons why.
Criss Angel is an illusionist at heart, not a magician.
His priority is on the grand spectacle he can create for himself, not the subtleties and intricacies of solid magic. In other words, he’s a lot more Houdini than Thurston.
That means the types of things he’s doing are more sensational, and feature much more unnatural situations and locations. So while his bread and butter will involve everything from escapes to elephants, from a bullet catch to a blindfolded tightrope walk, none of it should come close to duplicating what we all do in our working sets.
TAKE ADVANTAGE: His effects are big. He has the cash to drop on large illusionst, and that means the chances of him doing the things we’d do in our sets is minimal. And whether they know actual secrets, laypeople THINK they know how things like that are done (especially on a TV show).
Most close-up effects that pack a punch are made to do work without all those TV explanations. And they use props that everyone is familiar with, not complicated rigs or unique objects. Well-performed street or close-up magic blows people’s minds, because they saw something they would expect to see on TV, yet it happened right in front of them. Effects such as our Shift Self Bending Paperclip, for instance: The metal bends like computer animation, yet they can feel it in their own hands.
Criss Angel puts magic back in the limelight.
Any magic on TV is good for us, whether it’s good or bad magic. Laypeople don’t know who magicians respect or revile, so any appearance of magic — even those dumb shows that reveal all the tricks — are great for us.
TAKE ADVANTAGE: Because Angel is such a household name, name-drop him. Maybe someone is curious about the kind of magic you do. “It’s like Criss Angel, but I don’t use camera tricks.” Maybe you can use him as a way to bond with spectators, whether they love him or hate him. He’s a celebrity and has some pop-culture value, and you can use that. And it appears he uses some of our gear: Check out that Pure Smoke effect whenever he makes magic with a tortilla chip.
A new network means a new audience.
“Believe” is on Spike, which is the channel of “1,000 Ways to Die,” “Deadliest Warrior” and the like. It’s much more testosterone charged and energy infused than anything on A&E, the home of “Mindfreak.”
TAKE ADVANTAGE: “Believe” promises inside looks into the death-defying nature of each of the stunts. Each episode will have a pretty serious vibe of “how’d he do it,” and allegedly give a glimpse into magic. You can spin that into your presentations. From the Vegas cheat routine in Ninja 1 to Justin Miller’s Wrong Path, “Believe” will open up spectators to fake reveals and U-turns in your presentations. Think about what secrets you can “reveal.”
People know about camera tricks and editing.
Perhaps you’ve seen a clip of “Believe” that features him in a park switching two people’s legs. This hot mess of magic is filled with camera edits, secret staff members and goofy props galore — we have a strong suspicion, anyway. Of the laypeople we’ve talked to who watch that clip, 100 percent of them laugh. They are entertained, but they are not fooled. And part of the reason is the well-known usage of camera tricks.
TAKE ADVANTAGE: Magician Jay Sankey lamented that very clip on his Facebook page, saying that it’s too bad that the general public has easy access to Angel’s “fake magic,” and not “the fascinating work of real magicians.”
Hello? Real magicians? THAT’S YOU! Take Sankey’s hint: GET OUT THERE AND PERFORM. Just imagine the look on people’s faces after you kill ’em with a set, or just a simple ambitious card routine. When they ask you how you did it, just tell ’em, “Camera tricks.” Watch them get fried all over again.
FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.